Monday, June 17Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

The Study Abroad Situation for 2020/21

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way that we live. For those of us lucky enough to have emerged unscathed, it’s changed how we socialise, how we shop, and even how we receive our education. That is perhaps most true for students who had been planning to spend the 2020/21 academic year abroad. As a result of the need to minimise intercontinental spread of the virus, many students have seen their plans for the year ahead cancelled. Plus, those considering applying for an opportunity to study outside the UK, might be worried about how the pandemic will affect them too. This article, however, will hopefully shed some light on the subject.

For students who have seen their plans cancelled, the university has introduced new measures to avoid disappointment where possible. In a normal climate, students would be expected to take their placement year within twelve months prior to the final year of their degree. However, Royal Holloway has now given students the option to reverse that schedule. So, if students still wish to study abroad in the future, they can now choose to sit the final year of their course during 2020/21, effectively giving them the option to postpone their year abroad until 2021/22. Hopefully the global situation will be looking a little brighter by then, but of course, depending on how the fight against the pandemic develops, these plans may be subject to further change. 

If students do decide to go down this route, there’s a few things that they’ll need to consider. For example, if time passes by and you no longer wish to go abroad, you will have until the end of February 2021 to apply for a Year Abroad Waiver. Students who decide to take up the offer, however, will need to restart the Year Abroad application process in order to secure a placement. In addition, it is worth students keeping in mind that there may be less options of destination available to them as a result of Brexit. 

There is also good news for students who are earlier on in their university journey. Applications for the international exchange scheme will re-open again to first and second year students during the Autumn, and despite the fallout of Brexit, Erasmus+ applications will open in Spring. Although there is uncertainty around how Brexit will affect Royal Holloway’s involvement in Europe’s premier student exchange scheme, the university has pledged to provide financial subsidies to students in order for them to continue benefiting from Erasmus+, even in the event of a no-deal Brexit. 

If international placements aren’t on your radar, applications for placement years within the UK – either to work in a professional environment, or take part in a project as a volunteer – are set to be made available too. The university will not seek out placement opportunities for you, however the careers team will be there to aid you along every step of the way.  

So, while there are plenty of uncertainties in the world at the moment, Royal Holloway students can at least be reassured that their placement aspirations will remain attainable. 

James Bowers